62 VEEDICT ON IXBIA
against innumerable Hindu customs, from the habit of drinking
cow's urine to the indifference with which they allow their children
to play among the phallic obscenities of the temples.
The climax came one afternoon when a rising young barrister
and politician, whose name I will not mention for fear of damaging
his career, began to abuse everything Hindu with such violence
and in i>uch ringing tones that I had to request him to desist.
' All right/ he said, TU stop. But if I do, will you read some-
thing that I'm going to send to you—just one page out of a book ?'
'More Tramps Abroad, by Mark Twain.'
* What on earth has Mark Twain got to do with Hinduism ? *
'You'll see. By the way., you're going to Benares, aren't you ?'
41 hope so.*
'Well, the passage I want you to read is about Benares, which
is the Hindu Holy of Holies. It concerns the belief that Hindus
who die on the wrong side of the Ganges are reincarnated in the
form of a.. .But wait and read it for yourself.*
The book arrived that night. It was almost the only Mark
Twain I had never read, and the first few sentences had his
authentic tang—dry, crisp, sunny, like a frosty morning. But
first let us read the passage about Hinduism.
Here it is. As you study it, remember that it was the considered
opinion, of a very great American, a man who loved his neighbour,
and feared God*
*In Benares they tell you that if a pilgrim should ever cross to the
other side of the Ganges and get caught out and die there he would at
once come to life again in thefwm of an ass. Think of that, after all
this trouble and expense. You see, the Hindu has a childish and
unreasoning aversion to being turned into an ass. It is hard to tell
why. One could properly expect an ass to have an aversion to being
turned into a Hindu. He would lose dignity by it, self-respect, and
nine-tenths of his intelligence. But the Hindu who changed into an
ass would not lose anything at all.. .unless, of course, you count his
religion. And he would gain much. He would gain release from
his slavery to two million gods and twenty mittion priests, fakirs,
holy mendicants and other sacred bacilli ; he would escape the Hindu
hell; he would also escape the Hindu heaven. These are the advantages